aml

random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

the section cut of janus

In Roman mythology, Janus is the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, endings and time. His most prominent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January, which begins the new year. Most often he is depicted as having two heads, facing opposite directions; one head looks back at the last year while the other looks forward to the new, simultaneously into the future and the past.

Wikipedia entry for Janus

The building for the Argentinian Automobile Club (Automovil Club Argentino, or ACA, 1941), looks at both past and future, facing the front with a neoclassical facade, and the back with an industrial, utilitarian building.

In his book on Argentinian Architecture, Jorge Francisco Liernur credits multiple teams of architects for the design: Vilar; Sanchez, Lagos y De la Torre; Jacob, Gimenez y Palomir; Bunge; Morixe. Liernur explains that the building is the product of a compromise between this multiplicity of authors. The ACA (now, appropriately, a museum) is paradigmatic of a bipolar modernity, that looked to the future in its discourse but whose roots remained tied to the past.

the front facade looks to the past:

aca, front

the back facade looks to the future:


[see it from above in google maps]
 

the last days of the year usually find us in such a parenthesis. this is the time of ‘best of’ lists, evaluations, and predictions. it is also a time of travel and rest that further cuts us off from the daily routine, a respite to ponder before plunging again into relentless advance. but rather than look at the past (the front facade) or the future (the back facade), it is the section cut that holds the most potential.

(parenthetically, this tweet from @sevensixfive got me thinking about this)

inasmuch as both the front and the back facade of the aca are interesting in their own right, it is their juxtaposition that makes the building so striking. which makes me wonder, how does this union happen? how are those spaces in between past and future negotiated? these joints interest me both literally and metaphorically. in the middle of evaluations of the past and speculative views into the future, how does our present negotiate these joints? and more interestingly, how can we have fun with them productively? how can we brush them against the grain, so to speak?


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